[hist-analytic] Descriptive Metaphysics and Analyticity

Danny Frederick danny.frederick at btinternet.com
Sat Jan 29 13:02:14 EST 2011

Hi Roger,

<<If the revisionary metaphysicist adopts a different usage, or if he
disagrees with the analysis of the descriptive metaphysicist, then a
revisionary metaphysics could differ from descriptive metaphysics even
thought the latter is thought to be, or even actually is, analytic>>

Different metaphysical schemes may indeed involve conceptual change, though
they need not. But, as I said last time, the different schemes typically
imply conflicting statements about the world. For example, Locke says that
material bodies exist, Berkeley says they don't. So long as two rival
schemes are internally consistent, the fact that they contradict each other
shows that neither is analytic.

<<If you change language then you may end up talking to cross purposes>>

True; but you need not, or at least, need not always.

<<I am guessing that "transcendental arguments" are not the kind of thing he
would count as analysis>>

In practice, I think he would, though he might not come clean about it. His
'analyses' often have the form of transcendental arguments. See, for
example, the Chapter on 'Sounds' in 'Individuals,' and also 'The Bounds of

<<Einstein is usually regarded as a physicist, and the claim is then that he
put forward a theory about space time which was empirically testable>>

It turned out to be; but it was not for some years clear how to test it.
Newton was also a physicist, but his Principia contained some metaphysical
reflections on space and time that were untestable until Einstein came
along. The point is, there is no intrinsic difference between physics and
metaphysics: whether a theory is one or the other depends upon the general
state of contemporary theory and experimental technology.

<<However, the empirical confirmation of general relativity does not in fact
prove the underlying metaphysics>>


I think Kripke would say that metaphysical necessity (= broadly logical
necessity) is ontological whereas analyticity is epistemic. But I have not
read Kripke for years, so I am relying on memory.


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